1 Corinthians 15:29 (fwd)

From: Daniel Hedrick (hedrickd@ochampus.mil)
Date: Tue Nov 21 1995 - 10:04:29 EST

My friend Alma passed on the following
solution for 1Cor 15:29.

I have a problem with the explanation
in as far as it relates to two Pauline

"To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord"


"It has been appointed to man once to die and then the

Your Apologetic Approach to resolving this issue
would be greatly appreciated.


Dan, you wrote that you were interested in persuing a discussion on
baptism for the dead. James White recently posted some of his theories
on 1 Cor. 15:29 and I thought the following reply stated very succinctly
what I had noted the other night. I forward it to you for your



Again I have been gone for a week, and again I return to find all
manner of misunderstanding, which appears to have originated with
James. I have seen several posts discussing various aspects of 1st
Corinthians 15:29, none of which show any legitimate thought or
understanding. The verse, taken in context, allows us to arrive at
two firm conclusions:

    First: The Corinthian Saints were practicing Baptism for the dead.

    Second: Baptism for the dead is a true and correct principle of
the Gospel.

The first conclusion is arrived at in the following manner: Paul is
attempting to prove to the Corinthian Saints the reality of the
literal resurrection from the dead. He essentially states "There must
be a resurrection from the dead. Why would they be baptized for the
dead if there is no resurrection?" There has been a great controversy
over who "they" are, but there is no reason for question. Let's bring
Paul up to our day, and imagine that he were trying to convince you that
there is to be a literal resurrection. What if Paul were to say to you,
"There must be a resurrection from the dead, else why would the Jehovah's
Witnesses baptize for the dead if there were no resurrection?" You would
undoubtedly reply "Stupid, stupid, stupid argument, Paul. Who cares what
the Jehovah's Witnesses do or do not do, and what might that have to do
with what I should or should not believe?" Anyone claiming that the "they"
in 1Cor 15:29 refers to anyone other than the Corinthian Saints Paul is
addressing is at the same time claiming that Paul is a complete idiot.
The only way Paul's argument can carry any weight at all is if it is the
Corinthian Saints he is addressing who are being baptized for the dead.

The second point is easily determined because Paul is an Apostle of
the Lord Jesus Christ, and a preacher of righteousness. Satan and his
minions can, and often do, intertwine their falsehoods with strands of
truth in order to make their lies and misconceptions more palatable.
Satan teaches some truth when it suits his purposes. On the other
hand, Christ and his followers may not use falsehoods in order to
promulgate truth. In other words, Paul cannot say to himself, "This
is a false principle, but they believe it, therefore I will make use
of it and argue as though it were true in order to win the point." We
may therefore safely conclude that baptism for the dead is a true
principle of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As to what the principle of baptism for the dead entails, there is
little question about that either, and honest Protestant and Catholic
scholars, even though they have no clue to why it was going on, admit
it. For example, W.J. Conybeare and J.S. Howson in their classic
*The Life and Epistles of St. Paul* have the following to say about
1Cor 15:29:

  "The only meaning which the Greek seems to admit here is a reference
to the practice of submitting to baptism instead of some person who
had died unbaptized. Yet this explanation is liable to very great
difficulties (1) How strange that St. Paul should refer to such a
superstition without rebuking it! Perhaps, however, he may have
censured it in a former letter, and now only refers to it as an
*argumentum ad homines*. It has, indeed, been alleged that the
present mention of it implies a censure; but this is far from evident.
(2) If such a practice did exist in the Apostolic Church, how can we
account for its being discontinued in the period which followed, when
a magical efficacy was more and more ascribed to the material act of
baptism? Yet the practice was never adopted except by some obscure
sects of Gnostics, who seem to have founded their custom on this very
  "The explanations which have been adopted to avoid the difficulty,
such as 'over the graves of the dead,' or 'in the name of the dead
(meaning Christ),' &c. are all inadmissible, as being contrary to the
analogy of the language. On the whole, therefore, the passage must be
considered to admit of no satisfactory explanation. It alludes to
some practice of the Corinthians, which has not been recorded
elsewhere, and of which every other trace has perished. The reader
who wishes to see all that can be said on the subject should consult
Canon Stanley's note." [Conybeare and Howson, *The Life and Epistles
of St Paul* pp 412-413, note 7.]

It never ceases to amaze me that this verse is continually brought up,
even though the answer is so straightforward. I might add in
conclusion that James is fully aware of these explanations, as I
brought them up to him personally several years ago. He may claim
that he does not believe them, but what is there not to believe? It
would appear that he continues to maintain his unusual position in
order to oppose Mormonism rather than because of any scholarly or
exegetical evidence. I describe his position as unusual because there
are so few who believe it. This is partially because the effect of
replacing in the Church a person who has died with someone else who is
yet living would be a much more valid argument against a ressurection
than for one, so the interpretation fits neither the text nor the
context of the verse.


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